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Faced with a mundane routine and a boring life, and reluctant about committing herself to Arun (played by Tota Roy Chowdhury), Durga (Vidya Balan) finds herself drawn towards the cherubic Mini (Naisha Khanna) in the Bollywood thriller Kahaani 2.
The film was originally released in 2016. But the taut thriller is a glowing tribute to motherhood: one that deserves a second viewing on this Mother’s Day.
Durga is impatient and cannot wait to strike a conversation with the young one. Mini has a problem that Durga must first understand before she can attempt to solve it. With a sequence of lies delivered with some difficulty, Durga becomes Mini’s home-visiting tuition teacher to supposedly help with her struggles in class, thus creating a window of opportunity to uncover the truth.
Durga bluntly asks Mini on the first day of the tuition what/who keeps her up at night. Mini storms out, and Durga learns she needs to be patient if she is to win the trust of the child. After several months, Durga learns the shocking truth, in a beautifully rendered Q&A with the girl.
She alerts Mini’s grandmother, and heaves a sigh of relief, only to realize the grandmother is hand-in-glove with Mini’s uncle Mohit Dewan (Jugal Hansraj, in a not-so-Masoom role!), along with the cops.
The accidental detective is forced to become a crusader because she has her back to the wall (literally and metaphorically), while her boyfriend Arun makes a final attempt to get her to accompany him before he sails off to London. We watch him knocking on the door, and peering through the window on a rainy night to get a glimpse of her. But Durga chooses Mini over Arun.
Durga didn’t sign up for this when she first met Mini, but taking care of the girl is her new purpose in life. From being a fake teacher, she now has to “become” her mother. Along the way, she also has to momentarily don the avatar of her namesake deity, as she bites off the ear of a corrupt lady cop.
It isn’t easy for Inder (Arjun Rampal) either—the cop who chases his “gut feeling” (just like Durga did with Mini), and finds himself sliding in ranks from Calcutta to Chandan Nagar. An accident involving Durga is his first case after the demotion, as he struggles to come to terms with the new place, the new boss, the new setup, and the surfacing of memories of an old relationship with Durga.
Thankfully, director Sujoy Ghosh doesn’t dwell on their past, instead choosing to skim over it in a teasing manner. We sway between guessing whether Inder will eventually help Durga, or he is looking to make personal gains. He does use the case to put something to closure though, as he sets up the final rendezvous with Durga in his ancestral home, one that she had entered as a bride years ago.
Ghosh creates a thriller not just in subject matter, but in spirit as well. Take, for instance, the scene when Durga wanders into Dewan’s palatial house, and ends up in his study. Nothing plot-worthy happens in the scene except for her first one-on-one with Dewan. Durga doesn’t get any clues, but Ghosh creates such tension that you can feel it in the air. And he is the master of timing too, as he executes the scenes to perfection. Like in an earlier sequence, when Durga meets with an accident at a moment we’re not expecting.
Or the scene towards the end, when Durga prepares to burn down Inder’s ancestral house, so she can “unite” with her daughter forever. Ghosh prolongs this scene just a tad longer than expected, punctuated by Durga’s excessive yelling, as he creates a mini-thriller in our minds.
He makes us wonder if Durga has been lying all along: Maybe she is crazy? Maybe she is a kidnapper after all, and the cops are justified in looking for her?